The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition / Dominguez-Escalante Country

The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition / Dominguez-Escalante Country (HM29E3)

Location: Montrose, CO 81403 Montrose County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 26.135', W 107° 52.043'

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The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition

Just south of here on August 27, 1776, the Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante met a Ute Indian whom they called El Surdo (The Deaf One). They were seeking a route west, the two Spaniards explained, and wanted information about the lands and peoples in that direction. El Surdo, however, was an unhelpful source. "We learned nothing new," Dominguez wrote irritably afterward, "except to have suffered from the heat of the sun."
Their sufferings were only beginning. Over the next five months, the two Franciscan priests and their ten-man expedition would endure heat, cold, thirst, hunger, and various other miseries as they wandered through present-day Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. They had left Santa Fe on July 29, 1776, hoping to find an overland route to California and thus link the two branches of Spain's North American empire. This purely exploratory mission marked the Dominguez-Escalante expedition as unique; unlike most Spanish colonial expeditions, it sought no immediate military, religious, or metallurgical conquests.

The travelers followed the 1765 trail of an earlier explore, Juan Rivera, into present-day Colorado, then continued north through here, crossed the Colorado River near present-day Grand Junction, and eventually

reached the Green River, where they turned west into present-day Utah. By late October, with California nowhere in sight, they decided to turn back, skirting the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley en route. By the time they returned to Santa Fe on January 2, 1777, Dominguez and Escalante had walked more than 1,700 miles. And though they did not reach California, they added greatly to the store of geographical knowledge about the West, describing and mapping thousands of square miles of previously uncharted territory. Later explorers, including the legendary John C. Fremont, would rely on Dominguez and Escalante's discoveries.

[Painting of Grand Mesa]
By early September 1776, the party had reached the beautiful environs of Grand Mesa.
Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

[Photo of the Colorado River]
In the late 1776, Escalante identified the Colorado River by its Ute name, translated as Red River; but also Rio Grande de Cosninas, and the San Rafael.
Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

[Photo of cascading waterfall]
Of the La Plata River Escalante wrote: "[It] descends through the same canyon in which there are said to be veins and outcroppings of metallic ore...."
Colorado Historical Society

[Background Photo of Roan Cliffs]
The explorers

encountered the Roan Cliffs near present-day Debeque, Colorado, on September 5, 1776. Escalante described them as a "chain of high mesas, which are of white earth from the top down to the middle, and from the middle down evenly striated with yellow, white, and not too deeply tinged red ochre."
Colorado Historical Society


Dominguez-Escalante Country
{Drawing of areas of the expedition}
HM NumberHM29E3
Series This marker is part of the Colorado: History Colorado series
Year Placed1994
Placed ByThe Colorado Historical Society, Colorado Department of Transportation
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, July 16th, 2018 at 1:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)13S E 249723 N 4258040
Decimal Degrees38.43558333, -107.86738333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 26.135', W 107° 52.043'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 26' 8.1000000000001" N, 107° 52' 2.58" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 17158 Chipeta Rd, Montrose CO 81403, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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